In the top right hand corner of this image, published in the (usual) paper and long searched for on the website of Helsinki’s planning department, we can see Eira, one of the two pearls, if you like, of urban planning here 100 years ago. It’s the red roofs and green foliage of this Finnish success-story of garden-suburb-type urban planning. Beyond it, just on the edge of the image, are the five or six storey perimetre blocks of Punavuori and Ullanlinna, also considered success stories. (Today, 16.9, the text is not yet available except to subscribers. I’ll try to remember to add the link later.)
In the foreground is Hernesaari (from where the fireworks were done the other week – best use for this ex-industrial/harbour area). It is part of the Western Harbour area as the City calls it, to be redeveloped on the land left vacant by the large new port in Vuosaari.
Researching these new areas is a little tricky. In the age of the internet, particularly in this haven of technophiles, one is easily lulled into thinking that up-to-date information on changes affecting one will be available with the click of a mouse or a few. One would be mistaken. Hernesaari itself is not even mentioned on the English-language page (OK, that’s not perhaps the most significant page, but it is there). The bottom of the page suggests it was last updated earlier this month, but the text refers to the future construction of Eiran Ranta (which is already out there, in all its concrete reality) and mumbles (in an e-sort of way) something about 2006. So I guess it’s not very up to date.
Meanwhile, a little news and imagery is available on HS. One local activist spotted it there and wondered how it came to this. I will try to look into why this person should have been so surprised.
From his discourse one was able to discern at least a hint of a sense that ‘people’, perhaps even ‘the people’ had been consulted but their preference for small-scale and varied townscapes dismissed and replaced with large-scale, monotonous barracks. Meanwhile the newspaper article notes that a heliport is to be part of the area’s future. There is already one there, serving travellers to Tallinn. For now it is located in an underused area with few neighbours, the wisdom and necessity of housing it in a densely populated town-centre neighbourhood isn’t something that the article considers. There will also be substantial berthing facilities for cruise ships and, bizarrely, several hectares of infill land.
(Note to self: seek out historic maps of the area and try to figure out what motivations could underlie the desire to cover the sea in concrete, not forgetting to remind readers of Finland’s exceptionally low population density not to mention Helsinki’s already troublesome traffic congestion.)